From romcoms to superhero epics, the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival promises to appeal to fans of every genre. including dozens of indie gems of every budget and from across the globe. Wednesday, April 18, marks the start of Tribeca's 11th year, and the festival is ready to open in style.
"The Five-Year Engagement," starring Jason Segel and Emily Blunt as a couple whose journey to the altar hits a few snags, will kick things off for the Tribeca film fest, Robert De Niro's uncommonly deliberate and constructive response to the attacks on 9/11, an effort to revitalize and neighborhood he loved. It's being unveiled as part of Universal Studio's celebration of its 100th anniversary. Tribeca will also mark the occasion with a panel on April 19 during which De Niro, Meryl Streep and Judd Apatow will discuss their favorite moments from the studio's long history. The panel is also part of Tribeca Talks, the festival's series of conversations with a range of filmmakers, actors and more.
And the festival, will go out with a bang on April 28, with one of the year's mostly hotly anticipated films, "The Avengers." The superhero epic directed by Joss Whedon stars Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Captain America, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye and Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk.
On hand for "The Avengers" will be some of New York's own real-life heroes -- members of police agencies, fire departments, first responders, and various branches of the U.S. military.
They may seem like very Hollywood bookends to a festival that's dedicated to helping foster independent film, but in a city like New York, you need a little star power if you want to get noticed, explains Tribeca's Director of Programming, Genna Terranova.
"I think having those higher profile films is an entry point for people—'Oh, what's this going on? I see 'Avengers.' This is a film festival, I've never been to a film festival before. Maybe I'll go see another movie if I'm not in town for the weekend that Avengers is here.' It's a way for people who've never gone and had a cultural experience by seeing different movies, different documentaries, that may or may not go into (theaters), it's a way for them to find out about these other special films that we are exhibiting."
Terranova also points out that fostering little-known talent isn’t Tribeca's sole mission.
"Part of Tribeca's identity is that we are launch pad or a market place for films to be the first to go into the marketplace. And we do that with the whole festival. Now these two films happen to be bigger films. Opening night is a Universal film, and we're doing a tribute to Universal later in the festival to their 100-year anniversary, so that seemed fitting. Judd Apatow and that whole gang, everyone started somewhere in independent films, so the roots are they. They might not be as obvious but everyone had their start somewhere. "
As director of programming, Terranova saw both films long ago, and she assures us that fans won’t be disappointed.
"'Five-Year Engagement' is really fun—it's a sweet movie, and has some really funny moments. Those guys really know what they're doing. And Avengers exactly what you'd expect—it's an Avengers movie. It's a lot of fun action and adventure."
Terranova say that one of the big changes in their approach to programming Tribeca is that they’ve pared down the slate from more than 100 films annually to around 90. She say that cutting back the number of films makes it easier for the organizers, press and audience, while increasing the overall quality of the films as well as the exposure each can get. But even with the number of films cut but 10%, there's still a ton of movies to be watched as part of the selection process.
"So many… we had over 5,000 submissions, which included shorts…. So it's definitely a few thousand movies that were sifting on the feature/narrative side. (artistic director) Frederic (Boyer) and (Chief Creative Officer) Geoff (Gilmore) and I watch movies throughout the whole year, so it really accumulates to big numbers. I think I myself am around 800 to a thousand throughout the year…maybe more. We spread it around. It seems pretty daunting, but when you spread it over 365 days--or let's say I'm at Cannes and I see 5 movies a day or six movies a day. Or you're at Toronto and you just pack it in. And then maybe you go home and watch a couple more before you go to sleep at 2 in the morning. It works out, but it's quite a lot for everyone. But we love it, so it doesn’t really feel like work. Every time you put a DVD in, you're really hoping for the best—that's the fun of the discovery of programming, is that you're always really looking for something to really wow you."
Like a loving mother who refuses to choose a favorite child, Terranova demurs at the idea of mentioning a few films she's rooting for to find an audience, but as she tries to avoid answering the question head on, a few titles slip out. The Argentinian romantic comedy "All In,' about a poker player who gets a vasectomy shortly before running into an old flame; "Unit 7," about a group of cops in Spain who slowly find their methods at odds with each other; "Yossi," an Israeli film about a closeted gay man trying to make a go of it in Tel Aviv; and "While We Were Here," starring Kate Bosworth, in a black-and-white romance set on the Italian coast, as a woman who's disintegrating marriage is further endangered by a young American ex-pat.
Terrenova and her colleague shave painstakingly scoured the globe, watching thousands of hours of film in an effort to craft 11 days of program that hits every pleasure center, from big-budget to indie to doc to short, they'll all be on display starting Wednesday.